A couple items to lead into a snow-filled weekend here in New England. Football Outsiders has a look at the five huge showdowns of the NFL weekend. The Patriots discussion is the fourth one down.

Remember the piece that John Tomase did on Theo Epstein last winter that blew away anything done by the larger papers? Well, he’s done it again this time with a piece on Terry Francona.

Bill Simmons looks at a riveting offseason for the Red Sox. He is finally coming out of shock from “Grady’s Boner” and enthusiastic about the news that the Sox are making thus far. He also makes a strike towards certain unnamed Boston media types:

I can't remember another winter like it: Depression and optimism battling for the upper hand. Even as certain media nitwits eagerly rehashed Grady's Boner -- unable and unwilling to write about anything else, feeling vindicated by this latest setback, their status as the collective Scrooge of baseball safe again -- the organization and its fans were moving forward. Say what you want, we never stop believing that this is The Year.

Clark Booth looks at the “lucky” New England Patriots.